While most eight-year-old boys might spend their free time playing video games, hanging out with friends, riding bikes, or playing sports, animal lover Cole Amyx decided to start his own dog toy company. Like most entrepreneurs, the idea for his business came from seeing a need and trying to fill it — in this case, finding inexpensive and long-lasting toys for his beloved dogs, Jack and Dixie.
“I wanted to buy some toys for my dogs, but they were expensive and didn’t last,” says Cole, now 16. “My mom worked part-time at a tennis club, so she would bring home tennis balls, and our dogs really liked playing with them. We thought we could make a better toy than the ones at the store, so we decided to makes our own by running fabric through holes punched in the tennis balls. We used fleece because we found out it’s good for dogs’ teeth and helps keep them clean.”
Like any strategic businessperson, Cole made sure to test his products on prospective customers — in this case, Jack and Dixie, who went crazy chewing and playing tug of war with the toys. In fact, Jack loved the toys so much he’d slobber profusely whenever he played with them. And thus, Slobber Dog Toys was born.
Many good businesses start out small, so Cole decided to first sell his toys at the local dog park in his hometown of Houston, testing out the waters and seeing how much interest he’d generate. It wasn’t until he saw a TV program about homeless animals that Cole was inspired to take his venture to another, more meaningful level.
“Not long after I started selling the toys, I was watching a show on Animal Planet where these starving dogs were eating leaves and twigs to survive,” says Cole. “It really unsettled me, because I don’t think any living thing should be hungry and thirsty. So I thought I should donate part of my proceeds to help animals with food and shelter, and hopefully I would make a difference.”
Determined to help any way he could, Cole promptly reached out to the Houston SPCA, Citizens for Animal Protection, and BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions, and he offered to donate one dollar from the sale of every toy to help the animals in their care.
“I thought it would be a good option to help organizations in my local community because Houston is my home and I want to make it a better place,” says Cole. “[The organizations] have been very grateful and happy for all the help. Sometimes I donate the money to help a particular dog that needs heartworm treatments or surgery, so they can get healthy and get adopted.”
Eight years later, he says he’s sold about 4,000 toys, with $4,000 funneled into Houston’s animal welfare community.
So what do his friends and family think about Cole’s business and philanthropic efforts? Soft-spoken and humble, Cole says he doesn’t like to tell his friends about Slobber Dog because he doesn’t want to appear as if he’s bragging. But according to Kathleen Amyx, her son’s good works haven’t gone unnoticed with his family or at his school.
“Cole’s aunt and godmother teaches accounting at his high school, and she often uses him as an example in her class,” says Kathleen. “She’ll pull up his website for her students to look at and say, ‘this eight-year-old created this dog toy business, and [now] he goes to school here.’ That way, the students can make a connection [with what they’re learning] and see that it’s real.”
But when the local news media got wind of Cole’s charitable activities and featured him in a news story that aired nationally, that’s when Slobber Dog orders began really taking off.
“Our orders were crazy after that, and it was a lot of work,” says Cole. “We even got some orders from Canada!”
While sales have since tapered down as Cole’s attention has turned to the demands of schoolwork and college applications, he hopes to continue running Slobber Dog and helping homeless animals well into the foreseeable future. But whatever may come of his toy venture, Cole says that the learning experience has been invaluable to him at such a young age.
“Aside from learning how to help the community and being generous, I’ve learned a lot about how business works, about handling money and managing stuff,” he says. “Right now, I can’t really say for sure where Slobber Dog is going to go in the future, but I’d like to keep it around as long as I can.”
You can help him do that, as well as help homeless dogs in Houston, by shopping at Slobber Dog Toys. The small toy costs just $4, and the large $5.
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